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26 October 2015

Blustering Gerry Adams just unites his foes with his denials

Like many unpleasant people, Gerry Adams can unite his foes. In the Irish parliament last week, for instance, his and his party's antics over allegations that the IRA hadn't gone away caused Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin, Taoiseach and leader of the opposition, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as Sinn Fein tried to bluster and insult their way out of their corner.

At the best of times Kenny and Martin can’t stand Adams.

No more than their Northern Irish counterparts.

But Stormont is wearily used to Adams and his ilk.

The Dail can still be disconcerted by what many regard as the bullying Nordie interloper.

The past Adams denies is offensive enough and the threat that unscrupulous, wealthy, militant republicanism poses to democratic Ireland horrifies TDs, but all that is exacerbated by his hectoring self-righteousness.

His presentation of himself and his followers as blameless victims and his eternal sneering at their partitionist mentality.

He’s dead right there. The horrors of the Provo campaign have turned most southerners right off the idea of unity.

If Sinn Fein were a normal party and sometimes let their hair down in the bar with political opponents, bridges might be built.

But they show no propensity to make friends with anyone who is not part of their cult.

And observers find sickening the slavish obedience to the leadership.

The “I-believe-Gerry” mantra that they all produce when he’s under attack is risible, but at another level it’s frightening.

Anyway, all this came to a head when — after confirming that several paramilitary groups, including the IRA, still have paramilitary structures in place — Lord Carlile and his colleagues produced the killer sentence that IRA members believed “that the Provisional army council oversees both the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein with an overarching strategy”.

This might not trouble Peter Robinson and the DUP, but for political parties in the south facing an imminent general election it was a godsend to have support for their suspicion that the Sinn Fein party is still run by the same IRA clique.

In the Dail, after Kenny said “the reports speak for themselves” and that he had never accepted that Adams had not been a member of the IRA, or the army council, Martin asked about the possibility that “proceeds from organised crime that’s been going on by alleged individual Provo republicans” were finding its way “to the political project”.

He reminded the Dail that three Sinn Fein people had been found guilty in 2010 of handling the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery.

“Who would have thought,” he went on, that 17 years after the Good Friday Agreement “we would essentially have an organisation, the strategy of which is overseen by an army council, in accordance with this report, overseen by the army council that retains access to weaponry, that has a military structure and an active intelligence-gathering department.”

(Yes, I know it’s what you’ve been up against for much longer in Northern Ireland, but the Republic expects different rules to apply).

Having been shouted at a few times as a “gurrier” by an enraged Sinn Fein TD, Martin observed: “That is what we are up against in the Republic.

“The situation has always been one of denial, denial, attack, attack.”

He was supported by Kenny, who said to him that: “While we might differ and argue in our politics, we do not have to descend to that level.”

It also became clear that he and Martin might see eye-to-eye about the virtues of a revived, or new, joint agency to deal with criminality.

Condescension is something Sinn Fein consider their prerogative.

Indeed, they take it so furiously they took refuge in mocking laughter, followed by Adams denying, denying, and denying and whinging about threats he had endured because of his stance against criminality.

The party had quite a bit of trouble with the media as well: Adams seems not to have had time to visit the Special Criminal Court to offer moral support to Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy of south Armagh, charged with tax evasion, whom Adams famously said was not a criminal, but “a good republican”.

All in all, it was a very bad week for the great republican project.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards